Archive for » March, 2013 «

Sailing The Great Lakes’ Not So Free Seas


“Last of the Free Seas” Great Lakes map [via The Visual Telling of Stories]

This great “Last of the Free Seas” commerce map from 1940 posted on Dr. Chris Mullen’s “Visual Telling of Stories” blog is a reminder of just how rough things are on the Great Lakes right now. The pre-World War II map notes, “Great Lakes commerce in an average season is a movement of well over 100 million tons, often exceeding the combined water-borne commerce of Gulf and Pacific Coast ports.” These days, Lakers (the boats plying our freshwater seas, not Kobe and Metta) move twice that amount, but as the shipping season is set to open for 2013, the business is getting trickier due in part to climate change.

Lake Michigan has nudged up from its historic low levels, but the Lakes are still about two feet lower than normal this year. That plays havoc on the giant ships sliding into the region’s sandy harbors. These days, low water levels mean ships have to take drastic measures to avoid running aground. Mostly, that means carrying lighter loads—15% on average—which can translate into 10,000 tons less cargo on each run. Making matters worse, Circle of Blue noted that shallower waters are rotting out port structures while climate-induced violent rainstorms are likely washing more silt into ports, making it even trickier for the big boats to dock (which is probably part of the reason Michigan is popping for an extra $21 million in emergency dredging this week).

These days, the Great Lakes are looking like anything but free seas…


Similar news:

Defeated on vessel tax cap, boating industry vows to try again next year

A bill originally written to cap Maryland’s vessel excise tax passed the Senate unanimously on Friday. But there’s a catch — it no longer caps the state’s vessel excise tax.


In fact, it no longer has anything to do with that tax or with addressing the problem that prompted the boating industry to call for a cap.

The legislation — Senate Bill 90, sponsored by state Sen. John C. Astle, D-Annapolis — is now a measure to put 0.5 percent of the money from the motor fuel tax into the Waterway Improvement Fund, which funds dredging and other projects intended to keep the state’s waters healthy.

“That’s not what I intended when I put the bill in,” Astle said. “But we’ve been trying for some time to get an increase in money to the Waterway Improvement Fund. So I’ll take it and declare victory.”

Del. Ron George, R-Arnold, who sponsored the same legislation in the House, said the boating industry and the Marine Trades Association of Maryland — which both contend the tax cap is needed to revive boat sales in Maryland — couldn’t overcome opposition from the state Department of Natural Resources.

As in past years, the DNR opposed a cap because it argues that the revenue going into the Waterway Improvement Fund would be reduced by the loss of the money put in by the owners of large yachts.

George’s bill never got out of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Now, George has gone to the office of House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Annapolis, and convinced it to send a letter on his behalf asking DNR to work with the Marine Trade Association before next year’s session.

Maryland’s vessel excise tax requires boat owners to pay 5 percent of the value of their boat if they buy the boat in the state or keep their boat here longer than 90 days a year.

Brokers say boat purchases are lagging in Maryland because residents go to tax-free Delaware or to Virginia, where there’s a 2 percent tax and a $2,000 tax cap.

Maryland’s boat sales fell from $183 million in 2010 to $162 million in 2011, placing the state No. 26 in the nation. In 2008, boat sales were $248.5 million.

Supporters had argued the bill would draw more boats and larger boats to the state, stimulating Maryland’s lagging marine industry not just by increasing the sale of boats but by expanding the demand for slips, boat accessories and maintenance services.

Susan Zellers, executive director of the Marine Trades Association of Maryland, said that between her organization and marina owners and boaters, legislators on the committees probably received more than 200 calls apiece on the issue since January.

But opponents said a cap was a “tax break for the rich,” Zellers said.

By capping the tax at $10,000, the bills by George and Astle would have benefited boat owners whose vessels are worth $200,000 or more.

Zellers said that at one point during the Senate hearing, the boating industry tried to make a deal. She said it proposed raising the cap from $10,000 to $12,000 and putting a four-year sunset on it.

“It didn’t matter to us,” Zellers said. “We just wanted to get some movement.”

But the bills continued to sit in the Senate and House committees. After a month, the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee redrew the Astle bill to benefit the Waterway Improvement Fund, and that measure passed the Senate.

George said that at first the House subcommittee didn’t want to pass the cap because “they didn’t want to help rich boat owners.”

George said he explained the cap’s benefits to the committee members, but then lawmakers got a directive from Gov. Martin O’Malley’s office to avoid any “special deals” that could cut any revenue to the state government.

The vessel excise cap’s fate has been an “extremely frustrating” experience, Zellers said.

“I don’t know what else we could have done. I don’t know what else they needed to hear,” she said.

Astle said he hoped the tax cap can be enacted next year. He said the issue is still on the table because the Senate committee didn’t reject the idea.

“This is a subtle difference. They didn’t say ‘You know, the cap, we’re done with this.’ They said ‘You know, there’s something here. Let’s just alter this a little bit and we’ll give something back to the boating community.’ “

George said the DNR can understand the benefits the tax cap could bring to the Waterway Improvement Fund.

“This next year I think we’re definitely going to get it done,” George said.

Zellers said in an email that while the loss was tough, she’ll be back too.

“I understand that the process sometimes takes more than one session. Tough as it is right now, I need to remain upbeat and positive about the process,” she said.

“We had a pretty significant number of lawmakers take notice and express their concern about the future of this industry and I am hopeful that they will work with us and the department to come up with a stronger bill for next year.”


Similar news:

Boats: New technology enhancing boat ownership

  •  

    Ever dreamed of owning a boat? 

    If you’re ready to make it happen this summer, you’re not alone — boat sales were up about 10 percent in 2012 and are projected to increase another 5 to 10 percent this year, which many see as a sign that the economy is recovering. 

    “Early numbers from boat shows are strong,” says Thom Dammrich of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, with many customers shopping for smaller crafts that make boating accessible for middle-class families. 

    “There’s a boat for every budget and every experience,” he says.  

    Pontoon boats are very big sellers because they are so versatile — they’re great for fishing, and many come with plenty of power for waterskiing and tubing. 

    Pontoons also have a nice design that accommodates a crowd. Also popular are aluminum fishing boats, says Dammrich. 

    If you’re ready to start boating but have no idea what kind of boat is right for you, check out discoverboating.com. This unbiased industry site has tools to help you find the best boat for your needs, as well as a boat loan calculator and a “spousal conversion kit” that just might help convince a skeptical spouse that the time to buy a boat is right now.

     

    Fish finders

    For anglers looking to take their expeditions to the next level, fish finders have come a long way. The newest high-end models use the latest digital technology and boast great-looking screens. The Furuno FCV-627 shows you whether the lake bottom is composed primarily of rocks, sand, gravel or mud, as the actual size of individual fish on the screen. It retails for around $713 to $780. 

    The ultra-cool Raymarine Dragonfly, available in March 2013, will let you view the area under your boat with “photo-like clarity” using high-resolution imaging sonar.

     

    Joystick docking

    Joystick docking is all the rage — for good reason. 

    “It takes all the fear of docking away,” says Dammrich. 

    Joystick docking allows the driver to move the boat in any direction and  is appearing in more and more boats. Some manufacturers have even introduced joystick controls in outboard motors.

    Apps for your phone

    If you haven’t looked up apps for boating, you may be overwhelmed with all the choices — many of which are free or cheap and can really enhance your boating experience. Just for starters:

    – The free WindGuru app for iPhone allows you to access wind, wave and weather data instantly for locations around the world.

    – Speedometer apps help you easily keep tabs on how fast you’re going. 

    - Float Plan is a safety measure that allows you to easily send information about your boat trip to your loved ones onshore; if a problem does occur, it will help rescuers find you. 

    - Flashlight is simply a powerful flashlight that comes with a compass.

    - IKnots teaches serious sailors to tie knots.

     

     


  • Similar news:

    Storm surge causes concern for C.B.S. boat owners

    High sea surges have affected several communities in eastern Newfoundland, including the Conception Bay South area.

    Some CBS boat owners were concerned with the safety of their vessels during the storm surge that hit the waters early Friday.

    The rock breakwater that once protected boats docked at the Royal Newfoundland Yacht Club at the harbour in CBS disappeared, leaving the boats more vulnerable to volatile water conditions.

    Mark Warehan went out in the stormy weather to check on his yacht and ensure it was safe.

    The rock breakwater at the Royal Newfoundland Yacht Club has fallen under the water due to harsh waves during the storm surge on Friday. (CBC)

    “I had all kinds of worries,” Warehan said. “I didn’t know if the wharf had been damaged, if the boat had let go, if rocks had made it all the way over to the boats.

    “I had visions of a catastrophe,” he said.

    Peter Lawrie, head of the sailing committee, said he went down to the wharf as soon as he heard about the breakwater being damaged.

    “We weren’t expecting such a high surge,” Lawrie said. “We knew there was going to be high tide, but it’s certainly a surprise to us.”

    Lawrie said they have not received any reports of damage.

    “We’ve notified our membership and anybody who has boats in the water to check out their boats and make sure they’re not damaged.”

    Lawrie notified the department of fisheries and oceans, and hopes to have the breakwater repaired as soon as possible.


    Similar news:

    Boats: New technology enhancing boat ownership

  •  

    Ever dreamed of owning a boat? 

    If you’re ready to make it happen this summer, you’re not alone — boat sales were up about 10 percent in 2012 and are projected to increase another 5 to 10 percent this year, which many see as a sign that the economy is recovering. 

    “Early numbers from boat shows are strong,” says Thom Dammrich of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, with many customers shopping for smaller crafts that make boating accessible for middle-class families. 

    “There’s a boat for every budget and every experience,” he says.  

    Pontoon boats are very big sellers because they are so versatile — they’re great for fishing, and many come with plenty of power for waterskiing and tubing. 

    Pontoons also have a nice design that accommodates a crowd. Also popular are aluminum fishing boats, says Dammrich. 

    If you’re ready to start boating but have no idea what kind of boat is right for you, check out discoverboating.com. This unbiased industry site has tools to help you find the best boat for your needs, as well as a boat loan calculator and a “spousal conversion kit” that just might help convince a skeptical spouse that the time to buy a boat is right now.

     

    Fish finders

    For anglers looking to take their expeditions to the next level, fish finders have come a long way. The newest high-end models use the latest digital technology and boast great-looking screens. The Furuno FCV-627 shows you whether the lake bottom is composed primarily of rocks, sand, gravel or mud, as the actual size of individual fish on the screen. It retails for around $713 to $780. 

    The ultra-cool Raymarine Dragonfly, available in March 2013, will let you view the area under your boat with “photo-like clarity” using high-resolution imaging sonar.

     

    Joystick docking

    Joystick docking is all the rage — for good reason. 

    “It takes all the fear of docking away,” says Dammrich. 

    Joystick docking allows the driver to move the boat in any direction and  is appearing in more and more boats. Some manufacturers have even introduced joystick controls in outboard motors.

    Apps for your phone

    If you haven’t looked up apps for boating, you may be overwhelmed with all the choices — many of which are free or cheap and can really enhance your boating experience. Just for starters:

    – The free WindGuru app for iPhone allows you to access wind, wave and weather data instantly for locations around the world.

    – Speedometer apps help you easily keep tabs on how fast you’re going. 

    - Float Plan is a safety measure that allows you to easily send information about your boat trip to your loved ones onshore; if a problem does occur, it will help rescuers find you. 

    - Flashlight is simply a powerful flashlight that comes with a compass.

    - IKnots teaches serious sailors to tie knots.

     

     


  • Similar news:

    Boats: New technology enhancing boat ownership

  •  

    Ever dreamed of owning a boat? 

    If you’re ready to make it happen this summer, you’re not alone — boat sales were up about 10 percent in 2012 and are projected to increase another 5 to 10 percent this year, which many see as a sign that the economy is recovering. 

    “Early numbers from boat shows are strong,” says Thom Dammrich of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, with many customers shopping for smaller crafts that make boating accessible for middle-class families. 

    “There’s a boat for every budget and every experience,” he says.  

    Pontoon boats are very big sellers because they are so versatile — they’re great for fishing, and many come with plenty of power for waterskiing and tubing. 

    Pontoons also have a nice design that accommodates a crowd. Also popular are aluminum fishing boats, says Dammrich. 

    If you’re ready to start boating but have no idea what kind of boat is right for you, check out discoverboating.com. This unbiased industry site has tools to help you find the best boat for your needs, as well as a boat loan calculator and a “spousal conversion kit” that just might help convince a skeptical spouse that the time to buy a boat is right now.

     

    Fish finders

    For anglers looking to take their expeditions to the next level, fish finders have come a long way. The newest high-end models use the latest digital technology and boast great-looking screens. The Furuno FCV-627 shows you whether the lake bottom is composed primarily of rocks, sand, gravel or mud, as the actual size of individual fish on the screen. It retails for around $713 to $780. 

    The ultra-cool Raymarine Dragonfly, available in March 2013, will let you view the area under your boat with “photo-like clarity” using high-resolution imaging sonar.

     

    Joystick docking

    Joystick docking is all the rage — for good reason. 

    “It takes all the fear of docking away,” says Dammrich. 

    Joystick docking allows the driver to move the boat in any direction and  is appearing in more and more boats. Some manufacturers have even introduced joystick controls in outboard motors.

    Apps for your phone

    If you haven’t looked up apps for boating, you may be overwhelmed with all the choices — many of which are free or cheap and can really enhance your boating experience. Just for starters:

    – The free WindGuru app for iPhone allows you to access wind, wave and weather data instantly for locations around the world.

    – Speedometer apps help you easily keep tabs on how fast you’re going. 

    - Float Plan is a safety measure that allows you to easily send information about your boat trip to your loved ones onshore; if a problem does occur, it will help rescuers find you. 

    - Flashlight is simply a powerful flashlight that comes with a compass.

    - IKnots teaches serious sailors to tie knots.

     

     


  • Similar news:

    Tall ships: 5 ways to blow your hair back this summer


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    San Diego boasts the largest tall ship festival on the West Coast. The annual Labor Day weekend event includes bay exhibitions featuring vessels making sail with guns blazing.

    Some 200,000 visitors likely will check out San Diego's North Embarcadero area for this year's festival. The Star of India is expected to be among the tall ships on display.
    Some 200,000 visitors likely will check out San Diego’s North Embarcadero area for this year’s festival. The Star of India is expected to be among the tall ships on display.

    Fun pirate culture, memorabilia and a parade are also a part of San Diego’s Festival of Sail.

    The U.S. Brig Niagara will win this summer’s re-enactment of the 1813 Battle of Lake Erie. Niagara’s captain says it’s the largest wooden square-rigged sailing ship in the United States that still takes people sailing.

    Another one of the stars of this summer’s Tall Ships Challenge is the 210-foot, 86-year-old training vessel Sorlandet — which will sail all the way from Norway.

    Built in 1877, Elissa is billed as one of the longest continuously sailed ships in the country, if not the world. At full speed, Elissa unfurls 19 sails.

    Elissa relies on volunteer crews to run its paces. Day sails are offered in the spring and fall.

    The Juan Sebastian de Elcano measures 370 feet. Only two other tall ships in the world are larger. Its four masts stretch nearly 160 feet into the sky — about as tall as a 16-story building.

    This training vessel for navy midshipmen attending Spain’s Naval Academy gets around. It has circumnavigated the globe 10 times since its first launch in 1927.


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    (CNN) — The age of sailing ships may be over, but the romance and adventure they inspired still blows our hair back.

    This summer, majestic, one-of-a-kind tall ships may be coming to a city near you with their sails unfurled. In the Great Lakes, captains will repeat a waterborne war that hasn’t been seen in 200 years. In Miami, a spectacular Spanish vessel will join a 500th birthday celebration. And the West Coast’s largest tall ship festival promises a party for 200,000 visitors.

    First, let’s take a moment to appreciate the tall ships.

    These boats are run by fearless sailors who sprint hand over hand up masts that stretch 100 feet into the air. While the ship rolls and pitches with the wind and waves, the crew members work in unison to unfurl massive sails measuring 45 feet wide. In a stiff wind, these sails can pull a 400-ton ship across the water at 20 mph.

    Tall ships ruled the ocean for centuries and changed the world from flat to round. Sadly, they also fueled the slave trade, while helping a new nation stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Today, replicas and other traditionally rigged sailing vessels reflect some of the deepest-seated aspects of American culture: independence, mobility and team work. They remind us that because wind power was a renewable resource, hundreds of years ago, it opened the door to global travel for the first time in human history.

    Here are five events guaranteed to be a sailor’s delight this summer:

    1. Tall Ships Challenge, Great Lakes region

    This is the captain of American sailing events.

    From June through September, more than a dozen vessels from around the world will show off in spectacular fashion in Chicago; Cleveland; Green Bay, Wisconsin; Duluth, Minnesota; Toronto; Erie, Pennsylvania; and elsewhere.

    Without a doubt the highlight will be the bicentennial re-enactment of 1813’s Battle of Lake Erie on Labor Day weekend.

    Never before has there been a better American opportunity to get your “Master and Commander” on.

    For the first time in 200 years, 17 tall ships will line up against each other and fire black gunpowder cannons to recreate the fight against the British that allowed the United States to secure its current border with Canada.

    Stars of this massive choreographed water dance include the stunning 210-foot, 86-year-old training vessel Sorlandet — which will sail all the way from its home in Norway.

    Track the ship

    Also look for the Pride of Baltimore II, a 100-foot replica of a 19th-century privateer schooner.

    But the big daddy of this battle is the 110-foot U.S. Brig Niagara, which bills itself as the largest wooden square-rigger in the United States that still takes people sailing.

    When the shooting starts at noon September 2, expect the sound of cannon fire to carry at least five miles to the nearby Put-in-Bay, Ohio, resort area. Tickets to board the warships range from $285 to $975. Expect about 1,000 pleasure boaters to make the 40-mile trek from Cleveland or Toledo, Ohio, or Detroit to the battle site in the middle of Lake Erie. “Let’s just say the west end of Lake Erie is going to be busy with a lot of traffic,” Niagara Capt. Wes Heerssen said.

    The budget for this once-in-a-lifetime event totals around $850,000, which — in addition to everything else — will help pay for a fireworks display, concerts, food, entertainment, arts and crafts, the Ohio State University Marching Band and a live TV broadcast of the battle.

    2. Festival of Sail, San Diego

    They say it’s the West Coast’s largest tall ship festival.

    And in the California tradition, it’s got a movie star.

    The festival draws about 200,000 visitors to San Diego’s North Embarcadero area each Labor Day weekend — many who come to see the tall ship HMS Surprise, star of 2003’s “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” with Russell Crowe.

    The Surprise is a replica of a 24-gun British frigate.

    The fun starts on August 29 when the tall ships strut into the harbor and fire off their canons before docking.

    “We’ll have two or three ships in a battle out here on San Diego Bay, and you can hear it from all over the place,” said Maritime Museum of San Diego’s Robyn Gallant.

    Also check out the parade, fun pirate culture and memorabilia.

    The Surprise shares the festival spotlight with another legendary tall ship: the Californian, a 145-foot replica of a cutter designed to catch smugglers during the 1840s Gold Rush.

    3. Viva Florida 500, Miami

    It’s named the Juan Sebastian de Elcano, and what sets this tall ship apart is its immense size.

    It’s damned long: 370 feet. That’s longer than an American football field.

    Only two other tall ships in the world are larger.

    It’s tall, too. Its four masts stretch nearly 160 feet into the sky. That’s about as high as a 16-story building.

    This training vessel for navy midshipmen in Spain’s Naval Academy gets around. It has circumnavigated the globe 10 times since its first launch in 1927.

    The Juan Sebastian de Elcano is named after the first commander to sail around the world in the 16th century. (De Elcano’s captain, Ferdinand Magellan, was killed in the Philippines and didn’t complete the voyage.)

    The ship will be in Miami to help Florida celebrate 500 years since Europeans discovered what’s now the Sunshine State. The vessel is scheduled to anchor at the Port of Miami from May 1-6 with special events at nearby Bicentennial Park. The ship is scheduled to stop at Port Canaveral, Florida, on May 8-10.

    4. Toshiba Tall Ships Festival, Dana Point, California

    This festival kicks off on September 6, with a parade of nine tall ships sailing from South Laguna to Dana Point Harbor, cannons blazing. The weekend continues with on board tours, concerts, pirate and marine science educational events.

    5. Tall ship Elissa, Texas Seaport Museum, Galveston

    They say she’s the real deal — a piece of history.

    Back in 1877 craftsmen shipwrights in Aberdeen, Scotland, laid the iron hull for a three-masted sailing gem that would be christened Elissa.

    Now 136 years later, Elissa is a full-fledged Texan and is billed as one of the longest continuously sailed ships in the country, if not the world.

    At full speed, Elissa unfurls 19 sails.

    Like all full-rigged tall ships, Elissa has a multitude of rope lines that run the masts from top to bottom. “I love the complexity of that system — being able to, by hand, put together a sailing ship and keep it stable and safely sailing,” said ship’s bosun Mark Scibinico.

    The 205-foot ship recently underwent a major overhaul to repair plating to its hull, which suffered damage in 2008 from Hurricane Ike. Now it’s as good as new, Scibinico said.

    Elissa relies on volunteer crews to run its paces. Day sails are offered in the spring and fall. The boat is scheduled to appear April 6 at the Maritime Youth Expo in Seabrook, Texas.

    Here’s to a great summer, sailors — may the wind be at your back and the skies red at night.



    Similar news:

    The summer of tall ships


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    San Diego boasts the largest tall ship festival on the West Coast. The annual Labor Day weekend event includes bay exhibitions featuring vessels making sail with guns blazing.

    Some 200,000 visitors likely will check out San Diego's North Embarcadero area for this year's festival. The Star of India is expected to be among the tall ships on display.
    Some 200,000 visitors likely will check out San Diego’s North Embarcadero area for this year’s festival. The Star of India is expected to be among the tall ships on display.

    Fun pirate culture, memorabilia and a parade are also a part of San Diego’s Festival of Sail.

    The U.S. Brig Niagara will win this summer’s re-enactment of the 1813 Battle of Lake Erie. Niagara’s captain says it’s the largest wooden square-rigged sailing ship in the United States that still takes people sailing. It’s one of only three remaining U.S. Navy ships from the War of 1812.

    Another one of the stars of this summer’s Tall Ships Challenge is the 210-foot, 86-year-old training vessel Sorlandet — which will sail all the way from Norway.

    Built in 1877, Elissa is billed as one of the longest continuously sailed ships in the country, if not the world. At full speed, Elissa unfurls 19 sails.

    Elissa relies on volunteer crews to run its paces. Day sails are offered in the spring and fall.

    The Juan Sebastian de Elcano measures 370 feet. Only two other tall ships in the world are larger. Its four masts stretch nearly 160 feet into the sky — about as tall as a 16-story building.

    This training vessel for navy midshipmen attending Spain’s Naval Academy gets around. It has circumnavigated the globe 10 times since its first launch in 1927.


    1


    2


    3


    4


    5


    6


    7


    8


    9

    (CNN) — The age of sailing ships may be over, but the romance and adventure they inspired still blows our hair back.

    This summer, majestic, one-of-a-kind tall ships may be coming to a city near you with their sails unfurled. In the Great Lakes, captains will repeat a waterborne war that hasn’t been seen in 200 years. In Miami, a spectacular Spanish vessel will join a 500th birthday celebration. And the West Coast’s largest tall ship festival promises a party for 200,000 visitors.

    First, let’s take a moment to appreciate the tall ships.

    These boats are run by fearless sailors who sprint hand over hand up masts that stretch 100 feet into the air. While the ship rolls and pitches with the wind and waves, the crew members work in unison to unfurl massive sails measuring 45 feet wide. In a stiff wind, these sails can pull a 400-ton ship across the water at 20 mph.

    Tall ships ruled the ocean for centuries and changed the world from flat to round. Sadly, they also fueled the slave trade, while helping a new nation stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Today, replicas and other traditionally rigged sailing vessels reflect some of the deepest-seated aspects of American culture: independence, mobility and team work. They remind us that because wind power was a renewable resource, hundreds of years ago, it opened the door to global travel for the first time in human history.

    Here are five events guaranteed to be a sailor’s delight this summer:

    1. Tall Ships Challenge, Great Lakes region

    This is the captain of American sailing events.

    From June through September, more than a dozen vessels from around the world will show off in spectacular fashion in Chicago; Cleveland; Green Bay, Wisconsin; Duluth, Minnesota; Toronto; Erie, Pennsylvania; and elsewhere.

    Without a doubt the highlight will be the bicentennial re-enactment of 1813’s Battle of Lake Erie on Labor Day weekend.

    Never before has there been a better American opportunity to get your “Master and Commander” on.

    For the first time in 200 years, 17 tall ships will line up against each other and fire black gunpowder cannons to recreate the fight against the British that allowed the United States to secure its current border with Canada.

    Stars of this massive choreographed water dance include the stunning 210-foot, 86-year-old training vessel Sorlandet — which will sail all the way from its home in Norway.

    Track the ship

    Also look for the Pride of Baltimore II, a 100-foot replica of a 19th-century privateer schooner.

    But the big daddy of this battle is the 110-foot U.S. Brig Niagara, which bills itself as the largest wooden square-rigger in the United States that still takes people sailing. It’s one of only three remaining U.S. Navy ships from the War of 1812.

    When the shooting starts at noon September 2, expect the sound of cannon fire to carry at least five miles to the nearby Put-in-Bay, Ohio, resort area. Tickets to board the warships range from $285 to $975. Expect about 1,000 pleasure boaters to make the 40-mile trek from Cleveland or Toledo, Ohio, or Detroit to the battle site in the middle of Lake Erie. “Let’s just say the west end of Lake Erie is going to be busy with a lot of traffic,” Niagara Capt. Wes Heerssen said.

    The budget for this once-in-a-lifetime event totals around $850,000, which — in addition to everything else — will help pay for a fireworks display, concerts, food, entertainment, arts and crafts, the Ohio State University Marching Band and a live TV broadcast of the battle.

    2. Festival of Sail, San Diego

    They say it’s the West Coast’s largest tall ship festival.

    And in the California tradition, it’s got a movie star.

    The festival draws about 200,000 visitors to San Diego’s North Embarcadero area each Labor Day weekend — many who come to see the tall ship HMS Surprise, star of 2003’s “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” with Russell Crowe.

    The Surprise is a replica of a 24-gun British frigate.

    The fun starts on August 29 when the tall ships strut into the harbor and fire off their canons before docking.

    “We’ll have two or three ships in a battle out here on San Diego Bay, and you can hear it from all over the place,” said Maritime Museum of San Diego’s Robyn Gallant.

    Also check out the parade, fun pirate culture and memorabilia.

    The Surprise shares the festival spotlight with another legendary tall ship: the Californian, a 145-foot replica of a cutter designed to catch smugglers during the 1840s Gold Rush.

    3. Viva Florida 500, Miami

    It’s named the Juan Sebastian de Elcano, and what sets this tall ship apart is its immense size.

    It’s damned long: 370 feet. That’s longer than an American football field.

    Only two other tall ships in the world are larger.

    It’s tall, too. Its four masts stretch nearly 160 feet into the sky. That’s about as high as a 16-story building.

    This training vessel for navy midshipmen in Spain’s Naval Academy gets around. It has circumnavigated the globe 10 times since its first launch in 1927.

    The Juan Sebastian de Elcano is named after the first commander to sail around the world in the 16th century. (De Elcano’s captain, Ferdinand Magellan, was killed in the Philippines and didn’t complete the voyage.)

    The ship will be in Miami to help Florida celebrate 500 years since Europeans discovered what’s now the Sunshine State. The vessel is scheduled to anchor at the Port of Miami from May 1-6 with special events at nearby Bicentennial Park. The ship is scheduled to stop at Port Canaveral, Florida, on May 8-10.

    4. Toshiba Tall Ships Festival, Dana Point, California

    This festival kicks off on September 6, with a parade of nine tall ships sailing from South Laguna to Dana Point Harbor, cannons blazing. The weekend continues with on board tours, concerts, pirate and marine science educational events.

    5. Tall ship Elissa, Texas Seaport Museum, Galveston

    They say she’s the real deal — a piece of history.

    Back in 1877 craftsmen shipwrights in Aberdeen, Scotland, laid the iron hull for a three-masted sailing gem that would be christened Elissa.

    Now 136 years later, Elissa is a full-fledged Texan and is billed as one of the longest continuously sailed ships in the country, if not the world.

    At full speed, Elissa unfurls 19 sails.

    Like all full-rigged tall ships, Elissa has a multitude of rope lines that run the masts from top to bottom. “I love the complexity of that system — being able to, by hand, put together a sailing ship and keep it stable and safely sailing,” said ship’s bosun Mark Scibinico.

    The 205-foot ship recently underwent a major overhaul to repair plating to its hull, which suffered damage in 2008 from Hurricane Ike. Now it’s as good as new, Scibinico said.

    Elissa relies on volunteer crews to run its paces. Day sails are offered in the spring and fall. The boat is scheduled to appear April 6 at the Maritime Youth Expo in Seabrook, Texas.

    Here’s to a great summer, sailors — may the wind be at your back and the skies red at night.



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    Sales of recreational vehicles rebound from recession

    Although unemployment remains stubbornly high, sales of travel trailers and motor homes have rebounded to some of their strongest levels in six years as consumers feel more confident about their personal wealth.

    For the first three months of the year, motor home shipments were up 34% from a year earlier, according to a report from Robert W. Baird Co., while shipments of travel trailers and fifth-wheel trailers were up about 15%.

    In Wisconsin, there were 6,100 travel trailers sold in 2012, the highest amount since 2007, according to Statistical Surveys Inc., a Grand Rapids, Mich., firm that tracks sales in the recreational vehicle and recreational marine industries.

    Low interest rates and stable fuel prices have helped boost sales, along with pent-up demand for the products.

    High unemployment in some parts of the nation is about the only thing holding sales back, said Tom Walworth, president of Statistical Surveys Inc.

    “As long as people feel confident in their jobs, and interest rates remain low, they will continue to buy things,” he said.

    Leisure-product market trends affect hundreds of Wisconsin businesses and help drive the state’s tourism industry.

    A full recovery in motor home and camper sales will depend on the economy and consumer confidence. But spurred by retiring baby boomers and young families buying their first camper trailers, the long-term prospects for the RV industry look good.

    Experienced RV enthusiasts, many of them retirees, were among the first to return to the equipment marketplace – if they left at all. They’ve been followed by first-time RV users, many of them under age 40, who are now a little more comfortable with their spending since the recession ended.

    The RV industry has always been a leading economic indicator, according to Walworth.

    “People watch the industry to see which way it’s going,” he said.

    Burlington RV Superstore, in Sturtevant, said it had a 40% sales increase in 2012 from the prior year, and that it expects another 10% sales increase this year.

    “We are in a nice growth mode again,” said company president Tim Wegge.

    A year ago, sales of recreational products were given a boost by unseasonably warm weather across much of the United States.

    This year it’s more about an improved economy, low interest rates and somewhat relaxed lending criteria.

    “With so much pent-up demand (from the recession) people who aren’t worried about losing their job aren’t going to put purchases on hold much longer,” Wegge said.

    Early season boat sales have been hurt by the weather, according to the Baird report.

    February is considered the start of the selling season, and U.S. powerboat sales were down 9.5% from February 2012 when an early spring boosted customer purchases in many parts of the country.

    Sales of pontoon boats and small aluminum fishing boats have fared the best, partly because consumers have more equity on their trade-ins, the Baird report noted.

    Smaller boats, those less than 27 feet, make up 96% of the 12.4 million registered boats in the U.S. and have led the industry out of the recession, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

    One of the most significant trends in boat manufacturing has been the versatile boat – one that can pull tubers or wake-boarders and can be used for fishing and family outings, said NMMA President Tom Dammrich.

    In 2012, the U.S. recreational boating industry had an estimated 10% increase in powerboat sales compared with 2011.


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    New lease leads to new sailing program

    CHARLOTTE HARBOR –

    Two sailing schools are looking for room on Charlotte Harbor–and there is only room for one. The launch of a new sailing program is sending a long-time school scrambling for a new location.

    Logan Boucher and his sister, Kyra, learned to sail at the Community Sailing Center.

    “It’s something active and it’s work, but it doesn’t feel like work. It’s a way to get you out on the harbor and experience everything that’s out there.” Logan said.

    The school’s lease at the Bayfront Center ends April 1, and it hasn’t been able to find a new location yet.

    “And, unfortunately, that means all the boats have to be moved and it makes it that much harder to come out here and do our sailing” Logan said.

    The city chose to lease the building to the YMCA, not the Community Sailing Center.

    That means the director is clearing out his office after nine years here. The hardest part was telling his students they won’t be able to sail until he finds a new location.

    “It was tough, it was tough. It was an emotional time for me, but it’s one of those things where we try to teach them, keep your head up, look forward and keep going,” said Dennis Peck of Community Sailing Center.

    Sailing will continue at this location. As part of its lease with the city, the YMCA is required to start its own sailing program here.

    “I’m absolutely excited to think, after all this time, it’s finally coming to fruition,” said Randy Dunn, CEO of Charlotte County Family YMCA.

    Dunn says his group has been working on a sailing plan for about four years.

    They have hired a sailing director, organized an advisory committee and are hunting down boats to launch their program here by June 1.

    “We just have a lot of kids out there that need to sail, and we have a lot of parents who would like to see their kids sail on our beautiful harbor.” Dunn said.

    Peck is meeting with the county next week to discuss a possible partnership for his school.


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